Writing Tip #11 – Rewriting & Refining

Hello my lovelies,

I hope you’ve been enjoying the sunshine at home. Here in Florida it’s equal parts sunny and thundery, making for an interesting combination! In the last post, we talked about getting that first ‘dirty draft’ of your story down on paper/in Word document etc. So it may be a while before this post is relevant, but if you want to think ahead, then read on…

There is nothing I love more than writing that first draft; it’s a time when you can give your creativity free rein, letting your characters talk to you and then guiding them on their journey. Your grammar may be horrific, your spelling shoddy and your sentence structure non-existent, but once you’ve got it down you have something to work with. Some authors hate revisions and rewrites but I love them as much as I love that initial draft. For me it’s an opportunity to untangle the knotty mess that I’ve made and make sense of it all (I love a good puzzle!) followed by rebuilding, refining and polishing it until I’m happy enough to send it to my editor for a first view (usually my third or fourth draft by this stage, and we’ve agreed that what I send is a draft and not a final version, as we often take the story apart and put it back together again).

But we’re talking about first rewrites here aka untangling that knotty mess, so that I end up with something coherent to do some proper revisions on. It may be different for you, and if so that’s okay, because everyone’s writing technique is different. But what does this mean for me?

adult book boring face

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Well, first I take a break from the book – and I can’t recommend this highly enough. I put the manuscript aside for a few weeks so that I can get a bit of distance from it, because I often find that by the time I’ve finished the first draft, I’m too immersed in the story, too close to it, to rewrite in the way that I may need to (which can often be brutal i.e. cutting great swathes of words out). So, during those weeks, I read, I spend time with family, I catch up with friends etc.

When I’m ready, I pull the first draft out and work through it in the following stages:-

  • Structure

Are the chapters in the right order? Does the story make sense? I often re-order if I don’t think it works. This can involve a lot of cutting and pasting, which is why I don’t do formatting first. I also look at pacing at this point – does the story have a ‘saggy middle’? Do I need to liven it up somehow? Sometimes reordering chapters or events will help with this, depending on the overarching structure of the book. Other times it may be changing the lengths of some chapters to vary them, or ending a chapter at a different point than it did originally, to create more a cliffhanger.

  • Narrative 

Is there more story to tell? Do I need to add in scenes or events? Or is there too much padding? Do I need cut scenes out or reduce word count? Does every single scene move the story forward? If not, it needs to go. (Stripping out narrative can also count as editing). For me this is often the most painful part of a first rewrite. I have a tendency to overwrite during my first draft so that I can get into the character’s heads, and subsequently I have to cut lots of words out. My lovely editor Charlotte calls this ‘writing yourself into the story.’ I do this less than I used to but it’s still my guilty pleasure.

  • Line Editing

During this round, I comb through and correct grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, and get my sentences and paragraphs into some kind of order so that it all makes sense, along with inserting speech marks where people are talking, where I’ve forgotten to. In my first draft I often have notes like ‘insert x here’ or ‘y needs to say something about z here’ so I will fill in the gaps at this stage.

  • Formatting

Finally, I double line space and format each chapter so that it looks like a ‘proper’ book and I have a clean version to work on in Word when I come to the next step – revisions.

So, what do you think? Is this what a first rewrite looks like for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

 

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5 thoughts on “Writing Tip #11 – Rewriting & Refining

  1. jenanita01 says:

    My basic problem when it comes to revision is that I am too impatient. I need to split the job into sections, as you do, and take my time with each one. Why I thought I could do all of the necessary checks in one sweep amazes me now. No wonder I get tied up in knots!

    • Nikki Moore says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment 🙂 If I didn’t have any logic to it and tried to do the rewrites all in one sweep, I’d tie myself in knots too! I’ve learnt over time what works best for me – that doesn’t mean that won’t change at some point in the future 😉

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